The earliest example of a wishful career in the sciences is in my prep yearbook in which we had to draw what we were going to be when we grew up. Surrounding my photographed rosy cheeks was an attempt at a scientist, holding test tubes and the like. I'm not sure if it involved a lab coat, but I'm hoping my six year old self was clever enough to think of such a detail.
The next dalliance I had with the sciences was two years later when I started the science club in grade 2. A rather informal affair, it involved meeting during recess a few times to discuss all things pertaining to the advances of civilisation and the colouring of smelly liquids. I'm not sure why, but the principal aided with this venture, a strange occurrence considering he is a religious man. Later on in my studies he would always discuss the importance of the big bang and other discoveries in the sciences (although I'm getting sold on the idea that this universe is a product of a black hole in another universe): I think he was trying to tie it all back to god and the opening lines of genesis being a metaphor for the big bang. But the reason I started the science club was because for some reason I was in possession of a chemistry set. I may have even saved up some pocket money to contribute to this purchase (the saving of pocket money being a rare occurrence even today) so I must have really wanted it. I was fascinated by this set and can still remember the flare of burning magnesium or the dilution of copper sulphate. There were additional sets to be purchased to complement my one: I tried to convince a kid with rich parents that he could be vice-president of the group if he bought it for me. The packaging on my set was rather prosaic compared to these ones, being a product of the late eighties. I think I stopped playing around with it once I finished the basic experiments, the advanced section being perhaps too complicated for the effort I was willing to put in.
The Chemical Heritage Foundation have the worlds largest collection of children's chemistry sets and have thankfully put up a few of them on flickr. Written by the curator of these sets, Chemistry at Play is a rather interesting look at the history of these sets. I'm particularly fascinated by the shift into an educational and career building tool, to improve the children's chances of getting a job. With the cold war came new challenges: the need to create a new generation of scientists able to tackle any problem. Safety regulations have all but imploded this industry, especially in regard to nasty chemicals. Go down to any educational toy store and there are few science sets there, tasked with creating tomorrow's scientist. Able to tackle the problems of the 21st century. Just don't expect them to look as good as these.